Another thing that's had its day is the political outlook defended in this article by Alex Callinicos. Disavowing 'the mindless repetition of a few sacred formulas', urging the need, instead, for 'continuous creative renewal', Callinicos remains attached to the Leninist model of organization and he's out to defend it. I will spare readers having to read substantial excerpts from his article (just follow the link if you have the resilience), but creative renewal evidently doesn't extend to wondering if the Leninist model might have had some limitations - limitations that could have contributed their part to what Callinicos identifies as the degeneration of the Russian revolution into Stalinist dictatorship.
Might I suggest two such? They are inter-related within the conception, as he himself coyly puts this, of 'what is sometimes called a "vanguard party"'. The notion of a vanguard party is a monopolistic one both politically and intellectually. In being so, it is incompatible with any genuine principle of democracy, including socialist democracy. It is implicitly monopolistic in a political sense because the vanguard party is supposed to represent the interests of the working class in face of the uneven experiences and fragmented consciousness of real workers; as if there were a unified interest here and as if one organization could have a unique claim to having hit upon it. And it is implicitly monopolistic in an intellectual sense because the ability of this vanguard organization to fulfil its role as vanguard is supposed to be based on its 'shared Marxist understanding of the world'; as if Marxism, or any other single doctrine, theory or approach to grasping social and political matters, could measure up on its own to the small task of understanding the world.
It's all very well for Callinicos to chuck in as he does, in concession to an ideal of democratic life, talk of 'a continuous process of dialogue between them [the Bolsheviks] and their fellow workers, in which they sometimes changed their minds, learning from workers', yet any real commitment to democracy is bound to be jeopardized by the dual claim that one organization is the proper political conduit for working-class (or any other) interests, and that one intellectual outlook contains the key to political truth. Given the history of communism in the 20th century, not to be able to see the strands in Leninist vanguardism that make it unsuitable for democrats and socialists today, and not to recognize the necessity for the principles and practices of pluralist liberalism, is to be lost in a sectarian wilderness forever. (Via @MaxDunbar1)